(Updates with comment from Reyes on Mets in fourth paragraph.)
Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Jose Reyes became the second free- agent All-Star to join the Miami Marlins this week.
The shortstop, who won the National League batting title last season playing for the New York Mets, will join a team that had the lowest payroll twice in the past five seasons.
Reyes said today at a news conference announcing his free- agent signing during Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings in Dallas that the Mets forced him out of New York.
“They didn’t make me a real offer,” he said. “They didn’t want me there.”
The Marlins this week also signed relief pitcher Heath Bell, formerly of the San Diego Padres.
Reyes, 28, hit .337 last season to become the first Mets player to win the National League batting title. He also had seven home runs, 44 runs batted in, 101 runs scored and 39 stolen bases.
The Marlins didn’t release contract details. ESPN reported Reyes agreed on a six-year contract worth at least $111 million.
Reyes’s contract would be the biggest in Marlins’ history, surpassing All-Star Hanley Ramirez’s six-year, $70 million deal, MLB.com said.
With the addition of Reyes, the Marlins will move Ramirez to third base from shortstop, the only position he has played during his seven-year major-league career.
Bell, 34, saved 132 games for the Padres the last three seasons. He agreed on a three-year contract worth $27 million, according to MLB.com.
The signings come as the club revamps its image and moves into a new 37,000-seat, retractable-roof ballpark. Owner Jeffrey Loria changed the name to the Miami Marlins from the Florida Marlins, and hired Ozzie Guillen, who in 2005 led the Chiago White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years, as manager. The Marlins have made the playoffs twice since joining the NL as an expansion team 19 season ago, in 1997 and 2003, winning the World Series each time.
Reyes, a four time All-Star, had a .292 batting average with the Mets, with 735 runs scored and 370 stolen bases. He’s missed 191 games because of injuries the past three years.
The loss of Reyes is the another setback for the Mets, who have had losing records and declining attendance for the last three seasons. The Mets, who haven’t made the postseason since 2006, went 77-85 to finish fourth in the five-team National League East division, 25 games behind the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins finished last in the NL East at 72-90.
Reyes declined to negotiate a new deal with the Mets during the season, saying he didn’t want any distractions. He was in the option season of a four-year, $23.3 million contract.
Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson told reporters at the Winter Meetings that the Mets never made a formal offer to Reyes, though he had frequent conversations with his agents.
“You have to draw a line somewhere, and based on our experience -- not just with Jose, but with multiyear contracts generally -- we decided that there were some conceptual limitations to where we would go,” Alderson said. “One of the reasons we held back so long is because we wanted to see where the market would take us.”
The Mets may lose as much as $70 million this year and remain engaged in a court battle with the trustee in charge of recovering money for investors in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. The franchise, which has had attendance at $850 million Citi Field drop 26 percent since 2009, cut 10 percent of its front- office staff last month.
--Editor: Michael Sillup, Larry Siddons.
To contact the reporters on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org; Rob Gloster in at the baseball meetings in Dallas at email@example.com
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